Fruit and chocolate? No, thanks. Chocolate and nuts? Yes, please. Pears and chocolate? Excusez-moi!
There is something about classical French desserts that moves me. Maybe I'm embracing my 1/8 of French heritage, or maybe I'm just dreaming about taking pastry classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
French desserts have an elegance all of their own. The French have a magical way to transform cream, butter, chocolate, and sugar into culinary art. If you're going to indulge, why not indulge in a French dessert? After all, the French have spent centuries perfecting the art of pastry.
Poire Belle Hélène is a core dessert of French cuisine. "Beautiful Helen pears" were created around 1864 in Paris and named after the operetta La belle Hélène by Offenbach.
The traditional Poire Belle Hélène consists of poached pears served with vanilla ice cream and a warm chocolate sauce. Because I did not have any vanilla ice cream, I substituted chocolate ice cream. The delicate flavor of the pears plays so well with the chocolate ice cream. A light, but sweet vanilla syrup infused its way throughout the fruit. And, of course, the warm Nutella chocolate sauce only added to the dessert coma.
There is simplicity in the flavors, textures, and temperatures (hot and cold, and creamy and soft with just a bit of crunch), but there is some elegance with the vanilla poached pear that transforms it into something special.
This is an easy dessert to plate and portion. It would be the perfect ending to a dinner party. You can use any type of pear, and I am certain everyone at your dinner table will go home and dream in French subtitles.
Poire Belle HélèneYields 6 pears
6 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Ice cream, for serving
Chocolate syrup, for serving
Toppings, as desired
Combine the water, sugar, and ground cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the out the seeds, and add the seeds and the pod to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved (about 5 minutes).
While the mixture boils, peel the pears. Reduce the poaching mixture to a simmer and add the pears. Cook the pears until tender, about 15 minutes. The pears are ready once the tip of a fork or knife will go through the pear.
Remove the pan from the heat, and allow the pears to cool in the liquid until completely cooled.
Serve the pears with a scoop of ice cream, some warmed chocolate syrup, and with any other toppings desired.
Source: A Simply Sweet Justice original, inspired by Parisian street bistros